Mary Lynn Spear: A Parent’s Perspective
Posted On November 18, 2016
A father stood up with a microphone at Reformation Bible College’s Preview Weekend in September and asked a question that was on the minds of many: “So why would I send my son or daughter to RBC, when he is not going into the ministry? Persuade me!” It is a fair question, and one for which I would like to offer the beginnings of an answer.
We have three children. The firstborn might be found anywhere in the world, and is currently in Brazil interning with a publishing company after doing photojournalism during the 2016 Olympic Games. The second might turn up the next great invention while studying mechanical engineering technology. The third is all about music. No ministers here. But they all have attended or are currently enrolled at Reformation Bible College.
Many of us as parents entertain hopes that our sons and daughters will leave home with training in life skills and with a vision for their future. We get focused on SAT scores and career paths, and we want them to follow their giftings, maximize their potential, and provide for a family. If we can, we invest in a college fund. All of these things are done to help them a little on their way. We want them to succeed. Toward that end, some parents, according to recent observations at universities, are forbidding their children from going into humanities or history and urging them toward the sciences or mathematics to provide a viable career. But there is a great deal more to succeeding at life and to honoring our Redeemer Christ than just making it in the marketplace or fulfilling our dreams.
Indeed, the exquisite realizing of 3 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth,” is unbounded for a parent who sees their sons and daughters growing into wisdom and strength. Additionally, Psalm 144 paints for us a vision of our children coming to maturity as a great and active blessing: “May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace.”
Palaces and plants give us a colorful picture, if I think like a Hebrew about the essence of a thing: our sons, young, inexperienced, yet having the qualities of a full-grown plant. What would that be? Producing much fruit. Strength in drought. Shade for the weary or the traveler. In other words, strong, steadfast, refreshing, protective, and productive. And our daughters—why pillars? Pillars are a support. They have a purpose. They connote dignity, beauty, grace, and an enduring presence. Their influence continues through generations, even as our daughters play a significant role in raising up the next generation of women and men, leaders in our communities and churches.
Our culture is not expecting this from our young men and women. How much is squandered, even in our expectations? Sometimes we see their college years as times of finding themselves, figuring things out; and that’s still true at RBC, in a way. But this imagery of strong and beautiful maturity is something we see growing every day here at RBC in a way I really haven’t seen elsewhere. Further, it has an enhancing effect on their God-given individuality; there exists here an extraordinary celebration of personalities. People come in from so many backgrounds and stories, and I’ve seen several of these lives transformed into a heightened version of themselves.
Reformation Bible College is a kind of boot camp for life—an introduction to reality like no other. Students leave this school better prepared to understand their vocations. They leave seasoned in discerning God’s Word and the times in which they live, and they go out strengthened by relationships which likely will be carried into the next decades of their journey.
They are taught about relationships: first, with a holy God, and second, with their neighbor. Young men and women here study to know the character of God, and His Word to His people—the communication of God to us. We live in a profound tension between the reality of our God as a consuming fire too holy to look upon, and Christ our Brother, our atoning sacrifice and Redeemer.
We ourselves don’t often have enough imagination or depth of education to call forth the seismic truths, the shocking story, that lies in this relationship we have with Christ Jesus, and the Father, and the Spirit. Yet this—this is far more real than our mortgage payment, SAT scores, and family vacation. It is more real than the moral and social crisis in which our country—and the church—finds itself. It is eternally real. These truths have the power to transform every single aspect of our lives, to transcend our deepest troubles, longings, and perplexities.
We are meant to live in awe and wonder and to crave something to worship. Students catch a glimpse of the beauty and simplicity of the gospel, as well as the mysteries of our faith that God holds in His secret designs. They come to know a person better—and to increase their joy in worshiping the only person worthy of worship. Catching a deeper vision of their eternal career—to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever—prepares them for a successful life. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). In light of this truth, a year or two is a small investment down on the sixty or seventy years ahead of them in which they will be called upon to deal with complexities and conundrums in this world that is in crisis in so many areas.
As we consider where to best prepare our sons and daughters for these times, we can tend to think in terms of institutions. But I would more accurately say that our children are attending RBC because of particular persons. I honestly don’t know of another place that includes this caliber of professors, chapel/conference speakers, and mentors gathered under one roof. These men tangibly love the students and walk with them. They live out what they teach. They communicate truth and rich understanding in a way that comes to mean something deep in the souls of students. Their ability to enliven knowledge of the transforming work of Christ, discern the Word, and help others know and love our Creator God provides an extraordinary and life-changing opportunity.
Given the challenges of today’s church and the ideologies that threaten its purity and unity, what young men and women are learning here is immanently practical and strikingly important. It has everything to do with the next generation of Christ’s church—laypeople, elders, deacons, and yes, pastors—but also parents, pastors’ wives, elders’ wives, counselors, and neighbors. I say with Dr. R.C. Sproul most wholeheartedly, “What I would have given to have a school like this to have attended when I was young!”
Coming to know the vocation to which God is directing a person, and what gifts He intends for them to cultivate and pursue, can seem like a far country at age eighteen or twenty. It is priceless to first be grounded in the sense of who they are in Christ and the overarching value of all their gifts used to further the kingdom. Individual personalities and proclivities emerge in their richness; and from that emerges a definitive sense of calling. Vocational lifetime goals come into focus from these headwaters.
Last, as parents of children who love to laugh, we’ve discovered that when real theology encounters academia, the humor quotient is considerably heightened, for these men have a rarified sense of life and personalities that are priceless. I perceive that this knowing of one another and enjoying the fellowship of laughter and of hard study comes to its fruition because of the rich character of our creator God. In a thousand ways, the gospel is illumined as the joy-filled knowing of a person, Jesus Christ. And that person increases our knowing a Creator, a Father, a holy God ruling over the nations. This is our King, who will bring us home one day soon, to His kingdom. This life is the unfinished fairy tale. His life defines reality. What a joy to help our sons and daughters prepare for the real thing.
Mary Lynn is a Parent of Simona (RBC alumna), Sionna (freshman BASM), and Samuel (Foundation Year student).